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1  Announcements / News / Re: Happy New Year! on: January 05, 2018, 04:48:39 AM
Happy new year to you all as well. I don't have an internet connection at home now, so my posting is likely to be even more infrequent, but don't think that means I'm not thinking of you...
2  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Designing Bestiaries for your Setting? on: September 25, 2017, 03:26:35 PM

Steerpike

I may, one day, write a guide to monster design,

Please do.
3  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: Setting Seeds; Evil Gods on: August 15, 2017, 03:35:58 AM
I tend to think of this kind of appeasement-based worship as making the most sense for the majority of people in a typical fantasy setting. Yes, you might get a handful of ascetics in remote monasteries who take religion in a more metaphysical, enlightenment-seeking direction, but for the masses religion means you sacrifice a lamb to the Storm Goddess every new moon so She doesn't wash your house away in a typhoon and you spend an hour at daybreak every day reciting the litanies of the Harvest God so He doesn't blight your crops.

There's certainly a literary precedent for heroes who follow, or at least have some kind of vaguely subservient relationship with, inimical deities - Crom ("I seldom pray. He doesn't listen.") and Arioch spring to mind from the classics of sword and sorcery.
4  The Works / The Dragon's Den / Re: The Void on: August 02, 2017, 03:00:38 PM
Yes I saw it, and the plot made me think of a much better plot. I thought it was OK, the monsters were good, it was atmospheric, but the pacing was a bit off.

5  The Works / The Dragon's Den / Re: Anyone have weird music to share? on: August 01, 2017, 06:13:22 AM
I like music that sounds like this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByydxD2P9wE
does that count as weird?
6  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: The Horriffic Emptiness of Dungeons on: July 10, 2017, 03:59:25 AM
I love reading through your debates, Steerpike & sparkletwist, not least because I often get the impression that your views are far less diametrically opposed than you both seem to think they are at times. While I'm not going to say you've derailed the thread with it, though (everything you've been talking about has more or less been on topic after all!), I was sort of hoping for a more specific, nuts-and-bolts conversation about dungeon design.

That said you've both touched on some specific principles in the course of your discussion, which I think are helpful little terms for me to start thinking in, for example Steerpike's format of "Characters enter empty rooms -> find vague evidence of monster -> more empty rooms -> brief glimpse of monster (or what could be monster) from afar, or evidence that monster was recently present -> more information gleaned about monster and/or treasure or history of the place -> encounter monster, know they're outmatched because they've obtained information about it, narrowly escape, perhaps not unscathed -> find more evidence of monster, hinting at weaknesses -> find weapons/tools to defeat monster while being stalked and harassed by monster -> hunt monster down and kill it with cleverly executed plan."

I'm finding myself more and more interested in the idea of this kind of thing as a "haunted" or "ghost themed" dungeon, as I think it allows for a lot of more interesting interactions between players and monsters than the lair of living, flesh-and-blood beasties might. They might have fascinating encounters with completely intangible manifestations of the enemy, where neither party is able to physically touch one another and so they are left to simply observe which could give them all sorts of clues. Also when combat does occur, the ghostly nature of the foe might allow more interesting and less flatly permanent end-states to victory or defeat - maybe if the ghost takes you down to 0hp you don't die but it possesses you, and maybe if you take it down to 0hp you've banished it from this level of the dungeon, but it can still manifest itself in the lower depths.
7  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / The Horriffic Emptiness of Dungeons on: July 07, 2017, 11:30:51 AM
I've just finished reading R Scott Bakker's The Judging Eye, and, while I don't want to give too many spoilers, I was particularly struck by an extended sequence in which a group of characters enter an abandoned underground city built by an ancient pre-human civilisation. Almost a classic dungeoncrawl, then, and it was superbly written - the author was able to create an incredible sense of atmosphere and of how utterly unnerving such an experience would be.

I thought one of the most interesting things about it, though, was that for the majority of the time they spent in the dungeon, the characters just explored, bickered, and got scared. Eventually they did encounter monsters at the climax of the novel, and it was hugely dramatic when they did, but the battle served as the release after a long time building up tension. For most of their way into the depths it was the environment itself that seemed to be what they were up against, the oppressive dark and silence of ancient subterranean space, haunted by the memories of the atrocities that caused its abandonment.

By contrast there doesn't seem to be anywhere near as much dead space in gaming dungeons. Typically more rooms will include traps, puzzles and/or monsters than won't. I know you can find a similar kind of slow build in some published works like Death Frost Doom or in the St Severine's Skull stuff that Steerpike posted on his blog a while back, but it seems to be the exception, part of what made DFD stand out to people as unique.

One thing that's been bothering me recently is how little I've ever actually used dungeon environments in games I've run, and how much I may have missed out on by doing that. The Judging Eye seems like the perfect example of how I'd like a dungeon I ran to feel, but I wonder if its slow build and "nothing happens... nothing happens... nothing happens... nothing happens... SUDDENLY MONSTERS" format might just not translate that well from novel to tabletop.

I like the idea of the environment and its exploration being the focus, and of storytelling through dungeon design - things for players to interact with that aren't traps or enemies. I like the idea of running the dungeoncrawl as something approaching a horror scenario - because although it takes a hero to brave the depths, they're probably not gonna feel like much of a hero while they're creeping around down there all alone in the dark. I like the idea of a sense of alien scale to the place - either physical scale or in terms of time and just how fucking ancient everything down there is. I like the idea of the dungeon being haunted - maybe not only by literal ghosts that might come through the walls clanking their chains but in a more oppressive, all-encompassing sense.

I don't like the idea of kicking down the door and fighting the orcs.

Would anyone like to talk to me about the way they run dungeons and possibly give me some advice? I want to use emptiness atmospherically, but I'm worried that emptiness could just be boring. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has tried anything similar and how it went - particularly, perhaps, from Steerpike about how St Severine's skull went in actual play, but in fact from anyone with a lot of experience with dungeons and how they like to handle pacing in them and why.
8  Campaign Creation / Meta / Solo gaming on: February 18, 2017, 05:39:33 AM
Does anyone have much experience running solo games, as in adventures or even whole campaigns with just you and a single player?

What would you say are the principal things I should bear in mind if I was to run this kind of game?

Have you found it useful to include one or more sidekick-type NPCs to work alongside the PC? I'm thinking principally to help out in combat.

Any other advice?
9  Campaign Creation / Homebrews / Re: ALPTRAUM on: February 10, 2017, 05:48:12 AM
Katja ist Krieg
10  Campaign Creation / Homebrews / Re: APLTRAUM on: February 02, 2017, 06:40:50 PM
Love it. If and when you want to expand your player group, I'd totally be down to play in this.
11  Campaign Creation / Roleplaying / Re: PARTY LIKE IT'S 1974 on: January 14, 2017, 05:06:33 AM
My rota for next week has annoyingly not been confirmed yet, so I'm not sure of my availability.
12  The Works / The Dragon's Den / Re: Favourite Published Adventure? on: January 11, 2017, 05:08:49 AM
I might be running CoC's Masks of Nyarlathotep soon for some friends. I made an abortive attempt at it a couple of years ago where we only ever played 2 sessions in the end, but I've read through it numerous times and I'm excited to give it another go and try to immerse the players into the mythology of it - something that I feal takes longer, with slow reveals and so on, than the couple of sessions we managed last time. Sure, it's pulpier than a Cthulhu story maybe "should" be, but I feel like that's half its charm.

I'm also still in love with the idea of trying to run The Enemy Within using the original WFRP1e rules for some reason. I once read someone describe that campaign as "let's run a Call of Cthulhu game in our fantasy setting" so maybe that's what appeals to me - I feel like with a published module I'm looking for stuff I couldn't easily invent myself, and that kind of mystery/investigation thing feels much harder work for me to come up with than some swashbuckling action stuff.

Similarly, I'm also into adventures that do dungeon-crawling interestingly because oddly, seeing as it's such a core part of the hobby, I don't often tend to think in terms of dungeons myself when I come up with stuff! So Maze of the Blue Medusa, Death Frost Doom, things like that. I don't get to game much/at all nowadays so I haven't actually run any of these, but I'm very interested in them from reading them through.
13  Campaign Creation / Meta / Re: How important to you is game balance? on: January 09, 2017, 04:49:49 PM
I think the idea of imbalance is most important to me in terms of internal verisimilitude. I suppose you could call this a somewhat simulationist approach but what seems most important to me on this topic is the potential for crunch to contradict fluff.
Now, I understand that from the point of view of balance interpreted as essentially parity of character abilities (between characters and/or between abilities) this view may seem a bit... skewed, shall we say.
The way I see it, though, mechanical balance is only really a problem for me when it begins to affect my suspension of disbelief. So, a rules problem along the lines of WFRP's Naked Dwarf Syndrome is definitely a balance issue in the sense of parity of character abilities. But it's also a problem, for me at least, with the balance between the game rules and the game's own fiction and that, for me, is when it really starts to get jarring. Not that one character or set of character abilities might be able to outshine another, but when that fact fucks with my suspension of disbelief.
It could also be a problem in reverse - say your game system, in the name of balance as mechanical parity, doesn't allow for gulfs of ability beyond a certain point between PCs of equivalent level regardless of character class. You may end up with a situation where the party fighter is, in the game's fiction, the greatest swordsman of his age, but mechanically only has, say, a 65% chance of beating the party thief (a self-taught back-alley thug) in a duel. In this case an over-emphasis on balance in terms of mechanical parity of character abilities has caused just as much of a rupture between my vision of how the game-world should work and how the ruleset actually makes it work in play - just as much, say, as if the fighter's ability with a sword mechanically meant that the thief had an absolute 0% chance of even landing a blow, let alone winning the whole fight, because in my head being a great swordsman makes you very, very good, but not invulnerable.
14  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: The Meaning of Words in Homebrew Worlds on: January 08, 2017, 04:50:50 PM

Polycarp

a jarl in other circumstances would be jarling.

smile
15  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Re: The Meaning of Words in Homebrew Worlds on: January 06, 2017, 05:47:44 AM

sparkletwist

One other concern is to make sure that your "shorthand" doesn't encompass any sort of stereotypes or whatever other historical nastiness that may give your names connotations that you didn't intend, which may possibly be offensive to people who actually have connections to that culture.

I suppose this is part of what I meant by implementing it intelligently. If you make sure you're using the real-world word's intellectual, cultural and emotional baggage to achieve what you wanted it to achieve this should never be an issue. It'll only be offensive if you have intended it to be offensive.
So if the officers in your setting's order of Lawful Good paladins use Waffen-SS ranks you'd better have a very good reason beyond "they're just cool-sounding military titles." But as long as you have that reason, and have thought sufficiently about the kind of gut reactions players might have when confronted with Hauptsturmfuhrer Lancelot in his gilded plate armour, then you know... you have chosen, thoughtfully, to provoke those reactions, so you're kind of successfully achieving your design goals I suppose!
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